Friendship


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Back in 2008 when I first started this blog, I wrote an article about ‘Emotions’. Back then, I was far less adept at expressing something so intricately woven in my head by penning them down into words. I was explaining how I saw my emotions as liquid dripping into separate bowls, each with their own dripping and evaporation rates. Some of my emotions like joy and anger filled up their respective bowls faster but evaporate just as quickly while others like sadness and yearning dripped ever so slowly but when the other bowls have all dried up, trickles of sadness lingered still at the sides of the bowl.

However everything was fine as long as my emotions were contained within the bowls but as they fill up, I had a harder time balancing my actions. It also wasn’t helpful that some bowls were smaller than others and when I assumed that I still had space to contain them, they started spilling over and an emotional flood is something I wanted to avoid.

My mother didn’t understand what I was talking about but she figured perhaps I could do it better in writing and suggested it as a writing assignment for my blog but it was just as convoluted and confusing so instead I did a simpler writing on my emotions. Even there I talked about my struggles with managing my emotions but there is a lot more to it than just the basic emotions. I have a rather idealised and romantic side that tries to collect and understand the complexity that is human emotions and my journals are often witnesses to my desperate scramble for emotional intelligibility. And one of the emotions that often haunted me was friendship.

When I first went to school, I amused my parents by announcing the number of friends I then have by the end of the day and listing them all, one by one. My definition of friends then was what I would now call acquaintances, people I know and can recognise by face and by name. Throughout my early school years, that soon evolved into people I enjoy being with and spend time with and being the excitable child that I was, I had a lot of people whom I called friends.

Friends, friendship and social circles were topics that often popped up again and again throughout the school year. “Who’s your best friend?” was one of those generic questions that is thrown without a second thought. Arguments often come with threats of breaking friendship ties and who you associate yourself with could potentially affect your relationship with others. It’s nowhere as vicious as it could get later in secondary school but the beginnings of politicking had started to show with some kids grasping the concept, and starting to manipulate it, earlier than others.

However at the same time, everyone is talking about how friendship is a selfless act of love and care. That a friend is someone special you care for through thick and thin. The term ‘BFF’ or ‘Best Friends Forever’ expresses the everlasting nature that friendship is supposed to be. Teachers would remind us that “a friend in need is a friend indeed”. And throughout it all, my mind collected the many facets of this beguiling word and kept redefining what friendship meant to me.

When I first moved school, everything was turned onto its head. While some students come and go and my social circle evolved with them, I had never considered the fact that I would instantly be separated with those I called my friends. I had no problems with making new friends, I always had room for more fun but I felt like a traitor to those I left behind. Isn’t friendship supposed to persevere through anything and everything?

I kept in contact with my previous classmates through letters passed through mutual friends and once I started homeschooling, we moved to email. However just as time salves wounds, time too blurs the images of the past. I adapted to my new life and learned to understand my siblings whose characters are different from my own in significant ways and I had that relationship to entertain my thoughts. I compared it to the friendship I had with my friends back at school – or at least the shadow of it.

Because even as I stubbornly held to the strings that once tied us together, the correspondence began to trickle out. The innocent blank minds of a child could find connections through everything but as they grow older, their own individuality carve out different people and unfortunately sometimes you find yourself staring into the eyes of a stranger – and that broke my heart but I could not rationally explain why.

It was during these years that my journals were filled with my questions on what it means to be a friend. If it is all about love and care, what difference does it make for if you could no longer get along with someone if it is what is best for both of you? If I do love them, why does it hurt to let them go when they need to?

During one of my ruminations, I was reminded of the day when I stared at the red tendrils of the sun’s rays creeping up from beneath the horizon. Both of my hands were pressed onto the window as I watched the glorious sunrise from the plane with my family as we soared into the sky. I remember my eleven year old self wishing that I could have my friends with me as well so they too could see. And I understood that all along, a friend to me was someone I wanted to share things with and someone who would share things with me. Someone who was a bit like a home that I can turn to when things feel off. Someone with whom I felt like I belonged.

And that revelation came with a shocking sub clause – friendship to me was selfish in an altruistic coat.

After all, aren’t history and legend both full of tales of friendship being broken because of what could be seen as selfish reasons? If a friend you have borrowed a book you love and returned it to you, half ragged, doesn’t that feel like a betrayal of friendship? If your friend knowingly hurt you, won’t the people around you advise you that the person is “not truly your friend”?

But is it really wrong for it to be so? To be a friend to someone but only because that the person would do the same to you? To care for someone but only if they reciprocate that care too? Does the Malay proverb “berbuat baik berpada-pada, berbuat jahat jangan sekali” (be sparing with your kindness but never be malicious) support this?

And is it wrong to have a different base for your friendship, a different view and intention? To be there for someone always without expecting a return in kind? To love and care for someone for an altogether different reason and assume no gratitude?

Several years back, a good friend of my father’s, Uncle Nisar, came to visit us here in Malaysia. My fondest memory of Uncle Nisar was when he shared his house with us for a week both times we were in California. We were ecstatic that this time, we get to be his host for his special visit and we tried to make it a memory for him to treasure.

Before he left, Uncle Nisar gave my dad a heartfelt thanks to which my dad laughed and said that it was nothing more than what he did for us. And the reply he gave my dad was that what he did was sincerely because he wanted to give us a pleasant experience, that whatever happens after, it wouldn’t matter and he did not expect anything in return. And that really stuck with me ever since.

For me, I believe the best friendships are those guided through one’s love for Allah and anything else is far above me to say. I mull and muse over them and I think I would always be on the lookout for the many ways a bond is forged but if the steps you take are backed by faith in Allah Almighty, I am sure that in the biggest picture that stretches beyond our sights, your friendship is be a beautiful one.

And to all of you who share such wonderful friendships with those you love, I wish you all a Happy Friendship Day.

 

A Map of Trengganu


Uncle Awang Goneng’s latest book, A Map of Trengganu is finally out! This morning, I went out with my father to pick up the books from the country distributor and helped dad with our first batch of deliveries.

I've got my copy... Have you got yours?

Anxious to be one of the first people to read it, I quickly picked up a copy from the box as soon as we reached home. Soon, I was too engrossed with the book that when my mother called me to help her with the chores, she was shocked to hear me laughing alone. At that very moment, I was reading the part when Awang Goneng ‘took a Law degree “from the Academic Registrar’s office one night when the door was left open”.

‘A Map of Trengganu’ proved to be as beautiful and fun as its prequel ‘Growing Up In Trengganu’. Since the book had just arrived from Singapore, (as for today) there is a big chance that you may not be able to get them from the bookshops in Malaysia yet. But you can calm those restless, fluttering butterflies in your stomach by ordering them straight from ‘The Pizzaman’ (who happens to be my father 🙂 )!

You can contact him by email (akarimomar@yahoo.com) or call/SMS 019-319-9788. You can check out his blog post on the book here!. And what’s more? He can send it straight to your doorsteps (which is why he was called ‘The Pizzaman’). Do not miss the chance and get your copy NOW

Anyway, right after I’ve published this post, I’ll be going back to my room where I shall not be disturbed (nor shall I scare mum with my constant outburst) and continue reading the book 🙂

Happy Birthday Pak Cik Burhan!


Today is my father’s good friend, Pak Cik Burhan’s birthday. They were close friends since their college days in Carbondale.

Pak Cik Burhan is really fun to be with and certainly great to talk to. He always has interesting answers whenever I ask him  simple questions. By the way, he claimed that he has no favourite colour since different colours fit into different things. Coincidentally, my mother gave me the same answer a few days earlier…

From the photos my dad showed me, I believe my dad had had some very good time with Pak Cik Burhan back in USA. Oh, and speaking of good times, Pak Cik Burhan is a barbecue expert. We twice had Pak Cik Burhan over for barbeque parties and they were really fun. My dad said that Pak Cik Burhan loves barbecuing ever since they were in Carbondale!

I hope that Pak Cik Burhan has a wonderful birthday and enjoyed the birthday song from my little brother, Ahmad Ali 😉

An evening at Pantai Rhu Sepuloh… With Uncle Nisar!


We took a trip to Kuala Terengganu on 24th of December, 2010 together with Uncle Nisar. That was his first trip to the east coast of West Malaysia and we were very excited to take him around our hometown.

On the evening of the 26th of December, we went to Pantai Rhu Sepuloh (Rhu Sepuloh Beach – near Bari). According to Uncle Fauzan who is my father’s good friend, there is a special place at the beach where we can buy fresh fishes and other seafood along the beach.

Walking along the sandy beach

After buying some fresh fishes and some tasty big prawns, dad drove us to a stall selling delicious ‘ikang celuk ttepung’ served with ‘air lada’ for tea. Of course they do have other food in their menu but the ‘ikang celuk ttepung’ is probably their most popular dish since their fishes were freshly caught. We also had some prawns, squids and fried noodle. The seafood were so fresh and tasty and not like the ones that we usually buy from the markets. After that we each had a refreshing glass of coconut drink.

Enjoying our ikang celuk ttepung

After tea, we took a walk along the beautiful sandy beach. We found a shipwreck and mum suggested that it may be Captain Jack Sparrow’s ship, ‘The Black Pearl’. Uncle Nisar told us that Captain Jack Sparrow was so popular in the USA that people would dress up as the captain to the cinema to watch the movie!

Is this all that is left of The Black Pearl?

Then we came to an area where the fishermen dock their boats. We met a fisherman who showed us some fish traps. I still could not figure out how the trap works; I really hope that Uncle Azahar can help me 😉

We went to see the fishing boats

Examining a fish trap

Finally we walked back to the car and started our journey back home.

Uncle Nisar


Uncle Nisar with Ahmad Ali (on his stroller) at Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf.

Last Wednesday, we had a special guest for lunch—Uncle Nisar Shaikh with his sister and mother. Uncle Nisar is a very good friend of my dad who lives in Palo Alto, California. He was a professor teaching in University of Nebraska – Lincoln before working in an IT company in Palo Alto.

 

Aeshah (left) and I plucking persimmons at Uncle Nisar's front yard.

All of us love Uncle Nisar! He is really fun to be with. The last time we met Uncle Nisar was in September 2006 also in Palo Alto. I love Uncle Nisar’s former house which was surrounded by a huge garden. Upon reaching it, you could see two big persimmon trees. The trees were bearing lots of juicy fruits when we were there in September 2005. My mother was very fond of them and would always mention the trees whenever we talked about the house. The fruits were not really ripe yet at that time, so we took some back to Malaysia. And how sweet they were!

Ali and me sitting on the hammock with my sisters Aeshah and Anisah standing beside us.

What I love about the house was the huge backyard with a hammock and a big vegetable garden. It was where my siblings and I played during our time there. My little brother Ahmad Ali who was 2 years old at the time would be running to the cherry tomato plants every now and then to pluck and eat the tomatoes. There were lots of fruit trees and vegetable plants around the house and we squealed excitedly when we found two pumpkins in the garden.

 

Anisah stood as Aeshah was showing the pumpkin we 'found'.

Uncle Nisar is a great cook too. He loved to cook apple sauce and spicy tofu dishes. They were really delicious. His neighbor grew lots of organic apples and they are very, very sweet and crunchy. There was also a fig tree somewhere near the house that had lots of ripe fruits at the time.

 

Ahmad Ali reached out as he tried to pluck one of the organic apples.

Uncle Nisar and his families were very kind and nice. They invited us to their houses and his sister and brother in law lent us a red van so that we can drive around Palo Alto.

 

All four of us posing beside the red van.

Uncle Nisar flew to India from Singapore last Thursday but we’ll be meeting him again as he would be coming to Malaysia again next month!

A Wonderful Weekend With Aunty Selina


On Friday night (29th of January, 2010) Aunty Selina reached KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) for a 3 days trip. Aunty Selina, who lives in Maryland, USA,  is a very good friend of my parents. She stayed at The Renaissance Hotel Kuala Lumpur at Jalan Ampang.

She brought all of us lots of lovely presents. I received a 1000 pieces jigsaw puzzle ‘Home Sweet Home’ (a part of the Medallion Collection, featuring a picture of the countryside in the morning) and a beautiful historical fiction novel, ‘Stepping On The Cracks’ which I finished reading that very night. She also gave us two packets of a very tasty ‘Lindor’ by Lindt chocolates with peanut butter and orange fillings. The dark chocolates are so deliciuos and the chocolate fillings burst with aromatic flavour as they melt in my mouth. I just love them and could not stop eating them. I love Swiss chocolates and Lyndt is my favourite!

On Saturday, Aunty Selina spent her day sightseeing around Kuala Lumpur on the KL Hop-On Hop-Off bus. That night, we had our dinner at  Ayam Penyet AP Restaurant in Wangsa Walk Mall which served  delicious Jawa Timur (East of Java) and Minang  food. The special dish was the ayam penyet (smashed chicken) which originated from Surabaya. Unfortunately they were out of avocado. Indonesian styled avocado juice or ‘es alpukat’ is one of my favourite drink.

That night, we saw a big and bright blue moon (a blue moon means the second full moon of the same month. This phenomenon only occurs once in a blue moon 🙂 ). The moon was also supposed to be the brightest and biggest of the year.

We spent the next few days going around Kuala Lumpur with Aunty Selina. We went to Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Masjid Darul Ehsan, Putrajaya and lots more of interesting places.

Thank you so much, Aunty Selina for the wonderful presents and the delightful weekend we spent with you 🙂 . Please do come again to Malaysia. It would be great to see you again. We really miss you.

Friends from Sri Lanka


Last Friday, my family and I went to May Tower Hotel in Jalan Munshi Abdullah to meet Uncle Zahedi, Aunty Suzana and Brother Hisham. They came from Sri Lanka to send Brother Hisham who is currently doing his Master’s Degree in Islamic Finance here in Kuala Lumpur.

We met them after the Friday prayers. When we reached there, Aunty Suzana looked at me exclaiming, “Oh, she looks just like Aishah”. Aishah Salihue is Aunty Suzana’s niece and a friend of mine who lives in San Jose, California. Coincidentally, Aishah shared the same name with my little sister, Aeshah, while Aishah’s little brother shared the same name with my little brother, Ali. I had met her and her family twice during my visits to the USA in 2005 and 2006.

I remember going to her house in 2006. Her huge backyard is like a wonderland  filled with many kinds of fruit trees. On the day I visited her, Aishah found out that their first apple had ripened in the backyard. She excitedly pluck it and ran with the apple indoors to show it to her mum. There was also a tent, Aishah’s bike, his little brother, Ali’s wagon, a table with benches and a trampoline in the backyard.

I remember feeling so excited as I succeeded to ride Aishah’s bike without any difficulties even on the grass. It was actually my second time riding a bike without the two tiny side wheels to help me balance. I also remember pulling Ali’s wagon with both ‘Alis’ giggling inside. We also drew pictures and wrote stories on the wooden table. But the best part of the day was when I met Aishah’s grandparents who came all the way from Sri Lanka. Aishah’s grandfather gave me a lot of very beautiful Sri Lankan stamps which are now safely kept inside my stamp album.

We had a great time. Before we left, Aishah’s mother gave me a beautiful brown hijab. We still keep in touch through emails and we sent stamps to each other several times. I really hope that Insya Allah, I could once again visit Aishah in her wonderful backyard.

It was so enjoyable meeting Uncle Zahedi, Aunty Suzana and Brother Hisham. They are very nice and wonderful to be with. Aunty Suzana is very sweet, beautiful and friendly and she really reminds me of her younger sister who is Aishah’s mother.